Police investigators are seeking "persons of interest" in connection with the death of Rhonda Barnes, 38, who was found by her mother, Rosa Barnes, in the kitchen of her house on Grovewood Drive on Wednesday.
Last week, detectives spent two days at the crime scene collecting evidence, including a piece of fence from Barnes' backyard. Investigators said the house had been vandalized the week before, but did not know yet if that was related to her death.
"We kind of felt that someone was threatening her, but we didn't know just how serious it was," said the Rev. Ricky Daughtridge, pastor at Glory Baptist Church in Wilson, where Barnes was an active member for 11 years and sat in the second row with her three children nearly every Sunday.
Daughtridge said someone started harassing Barnes at church about a year ago and that on several occasions, while she was in service, someone scratched her car, slashed her tires and plastered negative fliers about Barnes on the church doors and on parked cars that said she was "no good and she was not a Christian" and "all kinds of ugly names," he said.
Clayton police reports now show that someone broke into Barnes home, set her bed on fire and spray-painted her walls in February 2005. Reports also confirm someone slashed her tires, threw paint on her car and spray-painted more messages on her home, just a week before she was found dead inside.
Rosa Barnes said her daughter had often talked about harassment but claimed she did not know who was harassing her.
Investigators said they do not know whether the arson or vandalism is connected to Barnes' death, but said they are following all leads and not ruling out anything.
"I really want them to catch whoever done this," Daughtridge said. "We want done what's right."
Authorities have not released the cause of Barnes' death, but family members told WRAL that it appears she had been burned to death.
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